The usually reliable Tracy Wood at Voice of OC made an incorrect assumption in her story today, Quick-Silva Heads to Sacramento and Into GOP Cross Hairs, as to why Democrat Sharon Quirk-Silva beat incumbent Republican Chris Norby last month in the 65th Assembly District:
…the combination of a large number of voters who belong to no political party and usually vote Republican as well as traditionally lower Democratic voter turnout, led political leaders of both parties to assume the district would remain Republican.
The union-funded Voice got it very wrong — John Hrabe at the FlashReport spelled out the REAL reasons why this crucial race went Democrat just last Thursday in Democrat Committees Funneled Special Interest Money to Quirk-Silva. Hrabe wrote (emphasis ours):
Special interest groups circumvented state campaign finance laws by using Democrat Party committees to funnel more than a quarter-million dollars to a crucial Orange County assembly candidate, an investigation has found.
In a span of 18 days, late in the campaign, six Democratic county central committees
contributed $292,200 to the Assembly campaign of Sharon Quirk-Silva, who defeated Assemblyman Chris Norby, R-Fullerton, by fewer than 5,400 votes. The hundreds of thousands of dollars in last-minute campaign funds secured Quirk-Silva’s election and helped Democrats gain their first super-majority in both houses of the state legislature since 1883.
The county party committees made the contributions to Quirk-Silva’s campaign within days and, in some cases, within hours of accepting contributions from the state’s most powerful special interest groups, including labor unions, corporations and a Los Angeles development group.
Could the Voice of OC have floated this piece to begin a deflection process away from the FlashReport story? Will someone from Norby’s (now) obviously underfunded campaign be taking the FlashReport’s detailed analysis and research to the FPPC if, as Hrabe said, there was a circumvention of campaign finance laws? Does this sudden money explain how Quirk-Silva’s rookie campaign manager was able to beat veteran Republican operatives like John Lewis and the OC GOP endorsements? Was Norby in the Dems’ “cross hairs” and sitting on his 18-point Primary lead? Is anyone at the thought-to-be no longer asleep Register paying attention? This could be one big story with statewide implications. And there’s also a little irony in that it was in Orange County where Mark Bucher launched Proposition 32 which would have dealt specifically with campaign finance nonsense like this and kept unions out of free elections.
There’s always been a level of suspicion as to how much funding Nick Berardino’s OCEA and possibly other labor entities have directed at the Voice of OC. Their Board of Directors won’t be found anytime soon at a Lincoln Club reception. Their “Partners” include California Watch, PBS SoCal and HealthCal.org, all of which, per a long enough look at their websites, seem to be leaning at least a little left. The VofOC’s operation is supporting three experienced reporters doing investigative work generally better than the Register (Editor-in-Chief Norberto Santana Jr. “was a lead investigative reporter” for the OCR before founding the VofOC in ’09). These folks can’t be working for free. We’ve never seen a single advertisement in the Voice, so the money’s coming in from somewhere.
Another of our Editors found a few other reasons for Norby’s loss a few days ago: Blame John Lewis for the Democrats picking up an Assembly supermajority.
So there seems reason for controversy and a much closer look at John Hrabe’s revelations. The Voice of OC has done some good work since its beginning — Tracy Wood’s work on exposing the outright lies, financial lunacy and management malfeasance at the California High-Speed Rail project has been very good. Their reporting on the Board of Supervisors, and especially the human resources circus they condone has been excellent, but missing the mark on this union story is unseemly and gives them away.